Super SessionSuper Session is an album conceived by Al Kooper and featuring the work of guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills, 2nd keyboardist Barry Goldberg, drummer Eddie Hoh and bassist Harvey Brooks, released on Columbia Records in 1968. Bloomfield and Stills do not play together on the album, with tracks including Bloomfield on side one, and those including Stills on side two. It peaked at number 12 on the Billboard 200, and has been certified a gold record by the RIAA, spending 37 weeks on the charts.
BackgroundAl Kooper and Mike Bloomfield had previously worked together on the sessions for the ground-breaking classic Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan, as well as playing in support of his controversial appearance at the Newport Folk Festival in July 1965. Kooper had recently left Blood, Sweat & Tears after recording their debut album with them, and was now working as an A&R man for Columbia. Bloomfield was about to leave Electric Flag, and at relative loose ends. Kooper telephoned Bloomfield to see if he was free to come down to the studio and jam; Bloomfield agreed, leaving Kooper to handle the arrangements.
Kooper booked two days of studio time in May 1968, and recruited 2nd keyboardist Barry Goldberg and bassist Harvey Brooks, both members of the Electric Flag, along with well-known session drummer "Fast" Eddie Hoh. On the first day, the quintet recorded a group of mostly blues-based instrumental tracks, including a modal excursion "His Holy Modal Majesty", a tribute to the late John Coltrane that was also reminiscent of "East-West" from the second Butterfield Blues Band album. On the second day, with the tapes ready to roll, Bloomfield did not show up.
Needing to have something to show for the second day of sessions, to sit in for Bloomfield, Kooper hastily called upon Stephen Stills, also in the process of leaving his band Buffalo Springfield. Regrouping behind Stills, Kooper's session men cut mostly vocal tracks, including "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" from Highway 61 and a lengthy and atmospheric take of "Season of the Witch" by Donovan.
Harvey Brooks closing tune "Harvey's Tune" had some overdubbed horns that were later added while the album was being mixed, and sales worth a gold record award were garnered from an album which cost just $13,000 to make. The success of this record opened the door for the "supergroup" concept of the late 1960s and 1970s — Blind Faith, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and the like. Kooper forgave Bloomfield, and the two of them made several concert appearances after the album was released. The results of one of those became the album The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper.
On April 8, 2003, Legacy Records reissued the album for compact disc with four bonus tracks, including both an outtake and a live track with Bloomfield, and two with the horn overdubs mixed out.
Along with the stereo version of the album it was released also as a 4-channel quadraphonic version in the 1970s. The quadraphonic version was released on SQ matrix encoded vinyl and discrete 8-track cartridge tape.
Later in the 2000s, it was intended that it would be remixed for the new 5.1 channel version to be released on SACD. But in late 2004 Al Kooper released this statement:
To the best of my knowledge, based on an unnamed source, the new head of SONY/BMG shut down the 5.1 SACD department and let everyone go. A year and a half ago I remixed Super Session and Child Is Father to the Man for them in 5.1 SACD. They both came out incredible and so I mastered them with Bob Ludwig. Now it seems they will languish on the shelves under the current administration of SONY/BMG.,........Typical, in soooo many ways."
The reason for this was that a legal challenge had been made that Super Audio discs contain up to three complete recordings of a work: one in the Hybrid CD compatible layer, and two in the SACD layer, a stereo version and a possible multiple channel version. If this is true, record companies could be legally liable for up to three sets of royalties. Since this would make the record much more expensive, it appears that most companies are avoiding this issue by simply canceling the release of the SACD version. Kooper said, "Have finished an eye-opening 5.1 Surround SACD mix of Super Session. This has got to be the finest way to listen to music if it is prepared correctly. So many people are doing it in the digital domain and losing the sonics of the sixties, as it were." Kooper used as much analog technology as he could. "Both these CDs were approached with their original bravado will be great demonstrators of SACD 5.1 Surround systems. So have patience and it will be rewarded in March 2004 (hopefully)." However, this date passed without the album being released.
Super Session was released in a limited edition hybrid SACD format by Audio Fidelity in September 2014, using the previously prepared Al Kooper 5.1 mix for the multichannel layer.